Wednesday, February 03, 2021
A bill to bring the 26th amendment to the Constitution, to pave the way for open balloting in Senate elections, was presented on Wednesday amid a noisy National Assembly session.
The members of parliament belonging to the Opposition benches chanted slogans, blew whistles, banged the desks and stood up from their seats in protest against the move and in a bid to prevent Minister for Law Farogh Naseem from reading out the contents of the bill.
Members of both the treasury and Opposition benches continued to chant "go" against one another.
In response to the ruckus caused by Opposition members, government lawmakers also got up and protested loudly. Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: "It cannot be so that you say whatever you wish but do not listen to others."
Speaker Asad Qaiser eventually called for a recess when assembly proceedings became difficult to continue, after which the session was conducted by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri.
Amid the ruckus, PML-N Secretary-General Ahsan Iqbal accused the speaker of being biased and not letting the Opposition speak. He said a speaker is not supposed to favour any party.
"It seems the Opposition has been labelled pariahs in the parliament," he remarked.
Iqbal also accused the National Accountability Bureau of gunning for "revenge" against the Opposition, saying prominent members are all in jail.
"Democracy does not work like you are angels and the Opposition is the devil," he said.
He said that the session has been going on for 13 days, but proceedings only lasted 10 hours in total.
The PML-N leader said that in the past, the Opposition would speak for two hours at a stretch even.
He said the Opposition had moved a call attention motion against the hike in petrol prices brought in five times by the government "but we were not allowed to speak".
When Iqbal asked members of the parliament to respond to his concern and say whether they found the speaker fair, a resounding "no" was heard in the assembly.
"If you will not let us speak here, then we will speak up out on the streets and alleyways," said the PML-N leader.
Iqbal went on to say that "at present, the prices of flour, sugar and essential commodities are skyrocketing". He also spoke of aviation industry "coming to a standstill" and "lies told in the House of the licenses of 850 pilots being fake".
"Our airline was barred by US and Europe [...] Pakistan Steel Mills employees are being fired," he said, in further criticism of the government.
His remarks kept prompting members of both benches to chant loudly, with the speaker repeatedly urging them to remain silent.
PPP's Raja Pervez Ashraf remarked that the government "does not have the numbers for a constitutional amendment, and look at their behaviour".
The Opposition's loud protests gained further momentum during Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed's address, as they kept chanting "liar, liar".
"The Opposition is not allowing me to speak because they know what I have to say," Saeed said.
The minister said that the Opposition claimed the government would be forced to leave after January 31. "Well we are sitting here today," he remarked.
Saeed said the Opposition had claimed they would "throw their resignations in our faces". "Have some shame, some honour," he said.
Echoing the prime minister's remarks from a day earlier, he said that the Opposition "does not have the guts" to resign from the assemblies.
Saeed was at one point prompted by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who had resumed the session after the recess, to focus his speech on the bill being presented.
Saeed said the government wants open ballot in Senate, but the Opposition wants "Changa Manga politics".
The minister, referring to the PML-N, said: "Their leader is sitting in London and poisoning people's ears against the state."
Referring to the ongoing protest by Steel Mills workers as the asset is set to be privatised, said that had it been performing well then "their foreign minister would not have offered PIA along with Steel Mills for free".
As Saeed went on to speak, he refused to listen to the deputy speaker, the chief whip and even Fawad Chaudhry, insisting on completing his bit.
"I will not finish my speech. I refuse to be part of any compromise. They will go to the speaker, go to Shah sahab. This is not what the parliament has been made for," said the minister, calling the Opposition "bandits", "thieves" and "qabza mafia (land grabbing mafia)".
Over Saeed's refusal to listen to anyone, the session was again put into recess for 20 minutes.
According to Radio Pakistan, other bills to be presented during the session were “The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and “The Civil Servants (Amendment) Bill 2021 were introduced in the House today.
Furthermore, three ordinances were also laid before the House. These were "The Employees Old-Age Benefits (Amendment) Ordinance 2020", “The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2020" and “The National Institute of Health (Re-organizations) Ordinance 2020".
The House was adjourned to meet again tomorrow at 11 in the morning.